Herbert D. Kelleher, founder of the US airline Southwest Airlines, died today at 87 years of age, the company said.
"His vision revolutionized commercial aviation and democratized the skies," Southwest Airlines, which described Kelleher, who also held the position of president emeritus, as a "pioneer" and "innovator", said in a statement.
The firm based in Dallas (Texas) highlighted the passion and enthusiasm for the life of Kelleher, who founded in 1967 this company under the name of Air Southwest Co and that changed in 1971 to the current one.
Southwest Airlines President and CEO, Gary Kelly, referred to Kelleher (originally from Camden, New Jersey) as a lifelong "mentor and friend" and said one of his greatest joys was having worked at his side for more than 30 years.
"His legacy extends beyond our industry and beyond the corporate world, he inspired people, he motivated people, he challenged people and he kept us laughing all the time," Kelly said in a statement.
Southwest Airlines Co has 58,000 employees and reaches 120 million passengers per year, according to the airline.